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The issue of using laptops in law school isn’t logging off anytime soon. Law students and professors continue to quarrel over whether the technology should be allowed in the classroom. According to Daniel Schudroff, a second-year student at Brooklyn Law School, “in a class of about 100, maybe five students don’t use a laptop [to take notes]. But they type them up later.” In addition, he said that unauthorized usage of laptops in class is rampant, with students checking e-mail, shopping and playing Scrabble and solitaire. As a result, individual professors at several law schools have decided to ban laptops from their classrooms. Other professors have rules against checking e-mail and using the Internet during class, while still allowing the laptops for note-taking purposes. Many institutions, including the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law, have implemented mechanisms to limit Internet access in their classes. This is accomplished by either setting up wireless Internet blockers, allowing professors to regulate it via hardware or software installed in the classrooms, or by software installed on the wireless network that knows when a student is in class, and regulates appropriately. Rumors at Harvard The debate between students and faculty over the use of laptops in the classroom has led to some unusual developments on campus. Students at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law started a petition and filed a complaint with the American Bar Association earlier this year when Professor June Entman banned laptops from her classes. The complaint was dismissed. A rumor circulating around Harvard Law School that faculty members were considering a vote this fall to ban laptops from all classes is false, according to Professor Bruce Hay, a member of a small group of Harvard Law School professors who have decided to ban laptops from their classrooms. “Right now it is up to the professor whether to permit laptops, and I am quite certain that it will remain the policy,” said Hay. “The rumor mill blew it out of proportion.” He said that the gossip spread when discussions began about ways to regulate the use of wireless Internet access in classrooms. “Even if the Internet is eliminated, I would still ask for the laptops not to be there,” Hay said. Internet usage is only one of several reasons that some professors feel that laptops are disruptive. Many complain that students try to transcribe every word spoken in class, leading them to abandon the practice of participating in the discussion. According to Schudroff, a so-called “angry typist”-a student who types very loudly-can also bother professors and students alike. While several faculties are moving toward eliminating classroom Internet or laptop use, some professors promote the use of laptops during class and even the use of the Internet at appropriate times. Ann Althouse, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, does not mind if students use instant messaging software or chat rooms to give an answer to a student undergoing a Socratic examination. “I have consequences for students not paying attention [and disrupting the class],” she said. “But if students were giving people answers I would let that go.” Althouse said that not paying attention in class is a personal decision that is purely behavioral and would not change even if the laptops were banned from class. “I put a lot of emphasis on students taking responsibility” for their learning, she said.

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